Brainwavz Hex: 3D printing with a spell

Brainwavz Hex: 3D printing with a spell
Written by ngoshawk
Published 1 minute ago

Pros – Full sound (fits well in this price).
Decent clarity.
Rugged construction.
Interesting look.
Good accessories.
A nice case.

Cons – Large.
Finish issues.
Average build quality.
Cable tangles.

Brainwavz Hex ($99.50): 3D printing with a spell

Brainwavz website: https://www.brainwavzaudio.com/collections/earphones/products/hex-triple-balanced-armature-earphones

With a fellow reviewer out on sabbatical, he contacted Brainwavz and mentioned me as a source for reviewing. I am thankful that The Contraptionist showed faith in my abilities. Thank you, Thomas! I am also thankful that Brainwavz showed enough faith to send me a copy of the Hex. It is understood that the Hex may be returned at any time but is considered mine to keep after the review. All we want is an open and honest review and I would have it no other way. I have had a couple of other Brainwavz products on hand and appreciate their thoughtful look into their products as well as forward thinking.


Hex Specifications:

  • Drivers: Triple Balanced Armature (3 Custom-Tuned Knowles Balanced Armature Drivers)
  • Rated Impedance: 30 Ω
  • Frequency Range: 20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 120 dB at 1 mW
  • Cable: Detachable
  • Cable Connector: MMCX
  • Plug: 3.5 mm, Gold plated
  • 3D Printed Housing
  • Organic Housing Design

In the Box:

· MMCX 3.5mm Cable

· Earphone Hard Round (Neckband)

  • Bluetooth MMCX Neckband Cable
  • Earphone Hard case Long
  • 6x Sets of Silicone Ear Tips (S M L)
  • Set of Comply™ Foam Tips T-100
  • Shirt Clip
  • Velcro Cable Tie
  • Instruction Manual & Warranty Card (12-month warranty)
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Gear used/compared:

All prices in USD, unless noted otherwise

Oriolus Finschi ($199)
LZ Audio A6 mini ($180/$80)
CCA C16 ($99)


Dethonray DTR1
Shanling M5s
Shanling M2x


Songs used:

Tidal Premium and SD card

Coldplay-All I Can think About Is You
Coldplay-A Message
Coldplay-White Shadows
Dona Onete-Sonos de Adolescente
Los Lonely Boys- Heaven (en Espanol)
twenty one pilots-Trees
twenty one pilots-Car Radio
twenty one pilots-Heathens
Damian Marley-Everybody Wants To Be Somebody
Damian Marley-So A Child May Follow
Damian Marley-The Struggle Discontinues
Ziggy Marley-Lighthouse
Ziggy Marely-See Dem Fake Leader
Mark Knopfler-Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Santana w/ Mana- Corazon Espinado
The new twenty one pilots album, Trench
The new Mark Knopfler album, Down The Road Wherever
Big Head Todd & The Monsters-Beautiful World
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Lindsey Stirling

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Initial:

In another review of late, I comment on how it used to be with Chinese manufacturers. There used to be a plethora of companies who produced many, MANY cheaper products without much care. As a result, quality control suffered as did one product to the next within the company. Plus, models of the same price point across company’s varied in sound quality as well. Often a $40 IEM from company X sounded better than the $200 IEM from company Y. Thus, was the early confuddlement across the spectrum. Many companies came and went, and just surviving those early years was a tribute to the company want. Brainwavz came and not only survived but thrived by innovating to the market desires. They also stayed true to the company mantra of providing inventive products at affordable prices. Eschewing the desire to go fully upscale into the above $500usd range, Brainwavz focused their portable energies into developing quality products, which were not only affordable but sounded good as well.

3D printing has been around for a while (heck some of my students have their own 3D printers…), and the tech is nothing new. But this is the first 3D printed IEM I have tried that I know of. As such, initial quality can be overlooked a bit since it is still somewhat new. I will talk more about that later. In conversation with Thomas, we deemed the clear variant to be the better choice.


Unboxing/Fit-n-Finish:

The Hex comes in a small rectangular white box, laden with the “ingredients” of the box. A nice LONG rectangular case is VERY much appreciated, with enough room to carry extra tips, the shirt clip and Velcro band. Also included was an advertising flyer for a monthly giveaway as well as a QR code to access the user manual. Replete with six (6!) sets of silicon tips as well as one set of Comply T100’s, the assortment was on the better side of the curve. Well played, Brainwavz.

Using MMCX cables or 2-pin is really a choice some fret over. I like both, and have mainly IEM’s, which use 2-pin but have a couple of higher-end, which use MMCX. It does not really bother me either way, and it really shouldn’t bother you. The attaching point for the MMCX is by nature tight and requires effort, lest they fall off (I’ve never had either type fall off…). A nicety of MMCX is that the cable can rotate freely, giving a slight advantage in fit possibly. The cable is rubberized silicon, with a very large bend for over-ear use. I found it too big, and I was unable to bend it too much for a better fit. More suppleness at this level would be appreciated. Once situated, it was fine.

One thing about siliconized cables is that they tend to hold their bends, which can create a snakey-type of cable hanging. I’m not a big fan of this but deal with it. Reinforcement on both ends is very good as I would hope using the silicon. No problems there. No microphonics either. While the cable is springy, it does not tangle so it stays out of the way, much like previous iterations from Brainwavz.

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The 3D printing of the housings is pretty good, but when the coating is applied, that is when I had issues. The black coating does not completely cover the nozzle or the area close to the nozzle. Since the plastic nozzle is a separate piece, it could have happened when it was attached, but looks like the coating was applied post-attachment. I am not sure if this was an early production run or an issue with application, but once the tip is on, you cannot notice the discrepancy. The shell is shall we say, big? It is quite large with a small nozzle. Insertion into my ear was fine, but those with a longer canal may have issues getting the nozzle deep enough. Using the Comply T100, I could get adequate seal, but wish the included model came in large. The medium fit but did not quite give the seal I wanted. Switching to a pair I had laying around, the large T100 fit just fine, negating the seal problem.

There is no hiding that the shell is large, though. With the added “custom” knob mimicking a CIEM, the Hex stays in place, but never seats well in my average-sized ears. I had no problem moving about, which could lead to a loss of seal in some, but the Hex sits well out from my ear. Some do, some don’t. It isn’t a big deal, but it is just big. Overall the package is appealing, especially with the honeycomb like hex cover, giving a hint of what lies inside. That said, the housing could be smaller since there are only three BA’s.

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Sound:

Upon receiving the Hex, I immediately gave a listen, then put it on my Shanling M3s for burn in purposes. This is standard for me, even when I do not mention it. I liked the initial sound, which gave a decent reach down low with good clarity in vocals. After roughly 75 hours, the unit is now being used for this evaluation.

I find the Hex to have a good “presence” about it. Nothing is overly intrusive, and nothing is taken for granted either. Good top end supports good vocals in the mids, with a good bass line laid down, even if it does not rumble like some would prefer. The Hex has a higher sensitivity of many I have had recently, and as such, discrepancies show in source and recording. That said, Tidal Premium through the Shanling M5s shows just fine, with good lows holding the foundation in place. The background between songs is less than completely black, but I put this down to Tidal as I have heard this from another IEM as well.

I find the mids & treble combine well to present a lively atmosphere of listening, but lack a bit of clarity. Coming through quite spritely on Good Advice from Big Head Blues Club (featuring BHT&TM), the tune does not hide behind less than stellar presentation. Not too much up top, but not underly sparkly either. I hate to call what I heard a sparkle up top, but rather competent and an addition to the overall schema. The Contraptionist called is “shimmer” and I would agree. Not aggressive or shouty, the treble fits my signature well. Some may wish for more, but with my hearing it comes across well.

As such, vocals also present themselves a bit more forward than some I have heard recently. Let Me Love You Baby from Big Head Blues Club is a good example. The vocals are front and center with all else supporting the voice. But when the solo comes on, the guitar takes center stage so there is a good presence in front of center. Combined with a bass, which is there but not overly obtrusive you get a good solid balance of sound. I mentioned the early iterations of many manufacturers made their hay by being shouty with overly intrusive treble and an almost false sense of bass. Some of those companies are now out of business and should be for their product(s) were abysmal. Brainwavz on the other hand presents a non-intrusive energetic signature, which balances all facets well. I am not put off with anything across the spectrum, save a little off the top. And that actually suits me just fine. So, considering the overall presentation, the Hex hits all the right buttons. At this price, that is a big plus. This to some is the hardest price in which to be successful, since many coming into our “hobby” consider this a huge step up from their Smartphone included earbuds. As such this purchase would not be taken lightly and thus must succeed.

Sound stage is wide and spacious. Good sound stage also lends to decent separation and layering. Instrument placement can be heard and is good, with good imaging as a result. I get a good sense of depth, with the mids again coming forward as needed. Hence the center point is slightly forward of center, which bodes well for vocal intensity.

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Comparisons:

Brainwavz Hex ($99.50) vs Oriolus Finschi ($199):

Not really a fair comparison, but one made to show how some enter this point with aspirations to compete here. As mentioned in the last paragraph, this point could be an entry to many coming from their included “earbuds,” or soon a jumping point into the higher bracket. And here is where the Finschi comes in. My recommendation for below $200usd, I absolutely love its deep, rich sound signature. But, if someone were to come to me recommending something below, the Hex would be included as a natural step before, for it represents an excellent value at the price. The price difference is apparent, but if one can only spend X-dollars, then the Hex would be a wise consideration.


Brainwavz Hex ($99.50) vs LZ Audio A6 mini ($180/$80):

Not really a fair comparison with the price drop either but considered because Brainwavz again has aspirations for their wares. The mini has better clarity and separation overall, but the Hex has better reach of bass. Control of that bass is essentially a moot point. You either want the extra bass or better control. Hex or mini, enough said.


Brainwavz Hex ($99.50) vs CCA C16 ($99):

Probably the closest competitor would be the CCA representation from the KZ/CCA conglomerate. For a good bit of time, KZ and CCA were sending new units out like candy at a Halloween parade. Fast and furiously often. Caught in the driver war of the time the C16 spouts 8 BA’s per side (x2=16, hence, well you get it…). I like the CCA iterations more than the KZ even though they are essentially the same thing. Think Toyota/Lexus and you get the picture (you already knew this). The CCA models seem more upscale than the KZ equivalent, and as such the C16 represents the line well. With a bit of rumble, the C16 sounds good. Quite good. But the top end tuning is beyond my level of comfort. Where I can turn the Hex up volume-wise, I cannot with the C16. This might be due to the better clarity wrought from the added BA’s, but for lower level listening the C16 is very, very good to me.


That said, the Hex shows how the industry has scaled back on the driver war. Per history, 24 (YES, TWENTY-FOUR) drivers used to be the top. Now some sense has returned, and the three BA’s of the Hex represent the IEM well enough. Both have their benefits, both are worthy.

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Sources:

Using either the Shanling M5s or M2x, the Hex performed admirably and without fuss. Running both Tidal and SD card music, the Hex simply came along for the ride. I saw little difference between sources, and those that I did were the result of the source, not the driver. Happily the Dethonray DTR1 also played well in the schoolyard. Giving more clarity to the Hex was not a bad thing in this instance.


Grande Finale:

Brainwavz continues to be forward thinking trying to stay ahead of the curve, but not lose sight of what got them to that point. Staying focused and grounded has given them the “slow, steady” growth model, which lends for success, long term. That is an admirable model but can often be forgotten in the portable audio industry, which is wrought with “new developments” every month or so. Brainwavz by no means sits on their laurels but takes the steadier approach it seems to me. And I applaud this. New developments come out but not at the cost of the existing. At least the older are kept around long enough for the newly developed models to take hold. For this, Brainwavz should be applauded. And they should be applauded for the Hex as well. It is good, with some faults but none worthy of non-consideration. And that is after all what the company wants. To be considered.

Thank you to @Brainwavz for the Hex sample, and I wish them continued good luck. I also thank The Contraptionist for the support as well. Rock on, bro.

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